The news of Osama Bin Laden’s death is certainly huge. After a day of thinking about it I have mixed feelings. I feel nothing but relief that the world is rid of a man whose message was one of hate and violence. At the same time I am somewhat bothered by the reaction American’s had to it. Jon Stewart was not ashamed by his happiness on Monday night’s Daily Show. I can understand that. After 9/11 Stewart gave what was an iincredibly heartfelt speech. Talking about how from his apartment the view had been the World Trade Center, but after the towers fell the view was the Statue of Liberty. For people who live in New York, work at the Pentagon, or lost loved ones in the attacks of 9/11, they deserve whatever emotion they feel over the death of the man who is responsible.
The rest of us, however, should calm down. Rejoicing over a man’s death just doesn’t feel right. Was he evil? I don’t know. I’m not sure I truly believe in good and evil, but I do believe in imagery. Reports say that there were celebrations in front of the White House. I don’t like that. The White House is the image of this country. It is a stronger image than most countries have. Do you know what 10 Downing Street looks like? Do you know what the residence of the head of state of any other country looks like? Most people probably don’t. I don’t. People around the world know what the White House looks like. After yesterday there is almost certainly a photograph of people celebrating Bin Laden’s death and the background of that photo is the White House.
College kids around the country seemed to have celebrated the most. As NPR reported, flash mobs around college campuses were common. These were celebrations by kids who were actually pretty young at the time of 9/11. Osama Bin Laden has been a spectre of evil for at least half of there lives. There excitement is almost frightening, because it is the same excitement young Muslims feel when they rise up against this country. It is the same blind conviction that assumes the other guy is evil and I am righteous. As one student noted in the NPR story, there are young people in the Middle East and beyond, who will see the celebration and only be pushed further toward radicalism.
I have no problem with feeling a relief over the death of Osama Bin Laden, but I don’t feel celebration is truly justified. I will leave you with a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr:
“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that”